Doodlebug is among the third short film written,shot and directed by Christopher Nolan at his earlier years of filmmaking. Starring Jeremy Theobald who went on to act again in Nolans first debut feature film “following”,doodlebug contains one element i.e Droste, we would find recurring in his later works including Memento,Inception and Interstellar.
Throughout the film, a man alone in a flat keeps chasing a small bug obsessively,trying to smash it under the heel of his shoe.He seems to be obsessed with chasing a small creature in his apartment,cut off from the world around him.The bug lays hidden on a cloth running like a mouse preventing itself from being squeezed by the mans shoe. Later,after few chases,viewers come to realise that the bug is actually a diminutive version of the same man chasing it. In other words,the bug is like a lilliputian version of himself. Finally, he succeeds in smashing his miniature(doodlebug) but the plot shifts to an ambiguous turn as he too gets smashed by a large man behind him. Viewers come to realize that he too is actually a doodlebug as he gets crushed by the bigger version of himself(whose wide face is visible behind the him) with a shoe,making every other man after the squash a doodlebug proceeding to get squashed by another being or bug.Then,fin.
literally,this is it,the plot.But most of us can agree that the whole action serves a symbolic element.I have my own interpretation to it.
Having watched it after digging through every works of Nolan from my initial obsession with his second feature film Memento,its quite obvious that Doodlebug contains some thematic similarities from memento.
It consists a droste element that is obvious in the end of the film for the man chasing the small man is itself a tiny man chased like a bug after he smashes the tiny man with his shoe and the same process continuous, i.e.droste ceases to exist.If any readers are unfimiliar with droste,the above poster of Memento will prove as a good example.and if still vexed, watch a scene from inception ,that is droste. For over simplification, its a chicken or egg question.In Interstellar too,the end has a repetitive droste cycle to it.Seems like Nolan likes to play around with this idea of droste once in a while. Throughout the scene,we can see the smaller man mimicing the bigger mans move while trying to step on the bug which shows that the both are trying to step on something,smaller man is stepping on another smaller man and so on,drotse again!
Also,the character seems inworldly alone inside his flat and obsessed with the bugs which could be symbolic for projection of his depth of insanity,being on the verge of madness and isolation.With the prominent ticking of the clock,sense of timelessness and his act of dropping a ringing telephone on water at the initial scene support my claim on obviousness of the character being inwordly. Whereas,the bug is obviously the man himself,my ambivalent conclusions exists on whether the bug is just a projection of his self degradation,listlessness or ennui perhaps.
Is doodlebug all about a supernaturnal bug parasite that feeds on insanity of a being or is it about a doodlebug in all of us that irrational fear of our existence,that inkling which doesn’t have an end to it nomatter how much we rack our brains about it.Only Nolan can answer it maybe,what its about.But all I can sum up is that this 3 minute short is very well crafted for its premise with its haunting and surreal aura that evokes a certain thought provoking feel at the end instead of a response like “what the fuck did I just watch”.Its definitely a must see for any Nolan fans and people interested in such artsy,psychologial noir stuffs.
By Jabin Karki